One of Leicester’s Handmade Festival best achievements has been to open-up venues in the city that aren’t usually used for public performance, or at least the kind of performance that would normally be expected to take place in them. It’s a great credit to the people who look after these venue that they have been so willing to make these spaces available.
The Bishops Street Methodist Chapel has to be one of the best hidden-gems of Leicester. With great acoustics resonance, the chapel is an airy space with loads of natural light. I felt instantly comfortable to be listening to the more intimate and acoustic side of the festival. Starting in the late Saturday afternoon with Weikie, who gave an impassioned performance demonstrating a powerful musicality that dovetailed seamlessly into the poetic wanderings of Katie Malco, before exploring the stripped-back acoustic blues of Kenworthy. Perhaps I’m getting older, but the Bishop Street Chapel cafe set the mood – especially with afternoon tea and cake. Who can complain.
Kicking-off the evening properly Up-Stairs at Firebug was Haus, with their second-ever live gig. A mixture of electronics and post-rock, delivered to the point of explosion by lead singer Adam Pickering. I think they are going to need a bigger stage if they carry on like this.
Later I headed to the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery to see Nine Black Alps. Channelling Oasis, the Stone Roses and The Charlatans, these guys (sorry cliche warning!) really took the roof off and the volume levels up a few notches. This was a proper rock-n-roll band who didn’t try to noodle their way through an intimate and introspective emotionality. Nine Black Alps aren’t going to do ‘lighter-in-the-air’ moments.
But for sheer emotional openness, there’s no one more heartfelt than Sam Duckworth, who’s set at the Cookie Jar was warmly appreciated by a dedicated set of fans who sang-along with gusto, and who listened to Sam’s impassioned call for us to work out how we can get along together. Sam’s set was a catharsis, not just for the audience, but for himself as well. If you are looking for a turning-point in a songwriters career, when they are galvanised into pursuing a new direction, I’d mark this set by Sam Duckworth as one step along that different path.